The M-CORES toll roads are bad for Florida
In 2019, the Florida Legislature passed a politically-motivated, special-interest-fueled bill to create 330 miles of new toll roads and other infrastructure, potentially slicing through some of Florida’s best remaining natural and agricultural areas. Three task forces, largely filled with state agencies and representatives of special interest groups like the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida Trucking Association, were assigned to study the need and provide recommendations in a final report due to the Governor and Legislature by November 15, 2020. Throughout the process, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has failed to demonstrate a need for these roads or their financial feasibility. FDOT has not proactively shared public comments and has continued to push the process forward, despite an ongoing public health and economic emergency brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. This has resulted in a lack of meaningful public input and an inability for task force members to adequately vet the proposed roads.
The proposed toll roads are bad for water, wildlife, agriculture, rural communities, and taxpayers. The roads could cost nearly $30 billion dollars to complete based on estimates from Florida Tax Watch and per mile costs for the Wekiva Parkway. FDOT has failed to demonstrate that the roads are needed, noting that ridership in existing corridors is often below 20%. As more than $90 million dollars of water quality and transportation infrastructure improvement projects were cut from the 2020 budget, M-CORES funding increased from $90 to $117 million. Construction of the roads will divert resources from current transportation, community health, and environmental priorities.
FCVEF serves as a Steering Committee member of the No Roads to Ruin Coalition, a partnership of more than 90 businesses and organizations that oppose the Roads to Ruin. Staff attends and provides public comment at all of the task force meetings and informs conservation voters on how to stay engaged. Through extensive media coverage and community outreach, FCVEF has elevated this issue and will continue to fight to protect Florida’s natural areas by advocating for a No Build option.
FCVEF has called on FDOT to put the brakes on the M-CORES process until it can be done in a way that supports meaningful public participation and has called on lawmakers to revisit this project during the 2021 legislative session. To address the current and urgent needs of Floridians, FCVEF recommends that the project be defunded and that taxpayer dollars be redirected to protecting our springs and water resources, improving our existing infrastructure, increasing public transportation options, protecting valuable conservation and wildlife habitats, and investing in community health programs.